Was Gatsby Great? The Great Gatsby Part 2: Crash Course English Literature #5

Hi, I’m John Green, this is Crash Course
Literature, and this is The Great Gatsby. This novel barely makes it to 200 pages
even with rather large print, and yet it’s so magnificently complex and rich that
we can’t possibly do it justice in two videos so
today we’re gonna focus on a specific question: Is Gatsby great? Mr. Green! Mr. Green! No. Oh, it’s so cute when you think you’re entitled
to your opinions, Me From The Past, even when
they’re entirely uninformed opinions. As penance for being such a little Hemingway
about this stuff, you will one day have to host a
show about the glorious ambiguity of literature. [Theme Music] So a while back we discussed the Aristotelian
tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, in which people of high birth are brought low by weakness
of character. Shakespeare introduced some ambiguity into that story arc as you’ll remember:
There was bad luck involved in their demise, and their mistakes, such as they were, weren’t so
grievous as to render Romeo and Juliet unsympathetic. Also, as in many tragedies, Shakespeare used
heightened, poetic language to help us care about Romeo and Juliet and root for them instead
of just holding them up as examples of what terrible things befall you when you’re naughty. Now obviously, Gatsby isn’t a work of poetry,
but Fitzgerald found himself with similar problems. As many a high schooler has pointed
out, the characters in The Great Gatsby aren’t terribly likeable, and the story just isn’t
moving or compelling if you’re reading about a bunch of people you hate, some of whom get
what’s coming to them and some of whom don’t. Fitzgerald handles this problem by heightening
the language and giving it pace. I mean, you can basically tap your foot to The Great Gatsby
from the very first sentence: “In my younger and more vulnerable years, my father gave me some
advice I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.” It’s got a beat and I can dance to it. And the descriptions are jarringly, magnificently
beautiful, too: Daisy’s voice sounds full of money; the fading glow on Jordan Baker’s
face is “like children leaving a pleasant street at dusk.” At the end of the novel,
Nick imagines the first European explorers of New York, writing, “For a transitory, enchanted
moment, man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into
an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with
something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.” Putting aside the fact that Fitzgerald failed to foresee
that humans would one day walk on the moon, not to mention create fake fake flowers the descriptions here are lush and beautiful. So the language of the novel elevates Gatsby’s triumphs and
tragedies to the stuff of real epics, which gives Gatsby a kind of unironic greatness. Stan! Can we just decide if these are physical
digital flowers or digital digital flowers? Remember, you don’t have to be good to be
great. And as the critic Matthew J. Bruccoli notes, Gatsby “is truly great by virtue of
his capacity to commit himself to his aspirations.” I mean we celebrate achievement born of hard
work and clarity of purpose because there’s a greatness in that success that you don’t get by, like, lounging around and using your pool all the time. Remember, there’s exactly one person at Gatsby’s
parties who doesn’t get drunk: Gatsby. I mean, he’s a bootlegger who doesn’t drink, a swimming
pool owner who doesn’t swim, a man of leisure who never engages in a single leisure activity.
But as Bruccoli further points out, there’s plenty of irony in the titular description
of Gatsby as Great. “The adjective indicates the tawdry and exaggerated
aspects of his life: Hurry, hurry, hurry! Step right up and see the Great Gatsby!” I
mean, he’s part magician, and- in a world of wealth — he’s part carnival curiosity. Bruccoli
notes that Tom Buchanan describes Gatsby’s famous yellow car as “a circus wagon.” Okay let’s go to the Thought Bubble. One thing
Gatsby has in common with Romeo and Juliet is that they’re all obsessed with controlling
time, which of course continues passing anyway. Like, Juliet tries to force night to come
quickly and dawn to stay away, because only under cover of darkness can her marriage thrive. Similarly, Gatsby doesn’t just want to marry
Daisy: He needs her to say that she never loved Tom Buchanan at all, as if he can erase
the past 5 years. What they’ll do about Daisy’s baby is a fascinating question that Gatsby
seems wholly uninterested in, but anyway, Gatsby’s dream is that he and Daisy will —
to quote Nick — “go back to Louisville and be married from her house — just as if it were
five years ago.” Nick’s perfectly sensible response to this
idea is, “You can’t repeat the past.” And then Gatsby utters his most famous line: “Can’t
repeat the past? Why of course you can.” And then he says, “I’m going to fix everything
just the way it was before.” Romeo and Juliet want to extend the present into forever because
they know their future is bleak; Gatsby believes the key to the beautiful future is a perfect restoration
of the beautiful past. Thanks, Thought Bubble Okay, a brief aside before we return to Gatsby’s
questionably greatness: The idea of restoring the past to create a beautiful future is or
course, not unique to Gatsby, which is why no candidate for President can ever get through a
speech without mentioning some previous President, whose glorious leadership the current campaign intends to channel so as to make it morning in America again. It’s also why Americans fight so much about
what the Founding Fathers would think of us, when in fact, what they would think is probably
“You guys are dressed funny. Also, how come this room is so bright without any windows?
Furthermore, why is this screen talking to me?” Now of course this nostalgia isn’t unique to the
United States, but you also have to remember that Gatsby is the ultimate self-made man, having
both literally and figuratively made a name for himself. And this combination of aspirational impulses
and the urge to restore life to some immaculate past does strike me as very American. That’s
what makes the tragedy of Gatsby so much more interesting and complicated than the Aristotelian
model of tragedy. Instead of being a person of high birth, Gatsby
is a person of low birth, albeit one born into a world that claims not to care
about or even believe in such things. And instead of experiencing a reversal of fortune
due to a weakness of character, Jay Gatsby — well that’s were it gets complicated actually.
I mean Daisy Buchanan was driving the car, but Gatsby chose to take the fall for her.
But he is also doomed because he lives in a social order that’s happy to drink illegal
alcohol, but condemns a sober bootlegger. Oh, it’s time for the Open Letter? An Open Letter to Prohibition. But first let’s
see what is the secret compartment today. Be booze, be booze, be booze. Yes! Touchdown.
It’s mystery liquor. Alright the game is simple, I drink the mystery
liquor and try to guess what it is. [coughs] Southern Comfort?… No? What is it? Jack
— that’s too easy, Meredith. Jack Daniels. Anybody could get Jack Daniels. Dear Prohibition,
You were crazy. I mean, for the rest of American history, our Constitution is gonna be this
weird document that is perfectly normal until the 18th Amendment, which suddenly bans alcohol,
and then the 21st Amendment which is suddenly like, “No, no, no. Terrible idea!” It’s almost like
legislating morality doesn’t actually increase morality. But Prohibition, in you, Fitzgerald found
the perfect metaphor for American hypocrisy and debauchery. We are not very good at tolerating
naughtiness in America, but we love being naughty. In short Prohibition, you were a terrible
idea, but a fantastic metaphor, so thanks for that. Best Wishes, [coughs]
John Green. So is Gatsby doomed by his romanticization
of Daisy, by his refusal to accept that he just wasn’t born to be one of the gold-hatted
men of leisure, by his belief that any means justifies — if you’ll pardon the pun — Daisy’s
end? Yes, yes, and yes. But more than that, the
great Gatsby lives in a cold world that cares nothing for justice, a world that makes claims
to fairness but really only further rewards those who have already been rewarded. I mean, who even survives this novel? Only
the idle rich: Jordan Baker, Daisy and Tom Buchanan, Nick Carraway. They survive, and
they are allowed to go on being careless. As Nick writes, “They were careless people,
Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their
money or their vast carelessness.” They aren’t cruel or malicious, they’re just
careless — they don’t care too much about Myrtle or Gatsby or their daughter or even
each other. To live without a care in the world is supposed to be the dream, right?
Everyone wants a care-free life. But Fitzgerald shows us the horror of this care-free life,
how Tom and Daisy’s inability to care is in some ways more monstrous than outright cruelty
would be. It’s not like Romeo and Juliet, where the
lovers are sacrificed and then Verona is healed. Nothing is made whole by the tragedy of The
Great Gatsby. I think that’s why some readers find the
novel depressing and hopeless, even amid all the lush language and witty turns of phrase. But I don’t think it is hopeless. Remember
that line from the first chapter: “Gatsby turned out all right in the end, it was what
preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams…” As individuals,
and as a collective, the tragedy isn’t in dreaming; it’s in chasing an unworthy dream. So in the end, is Gatsby great? I’m interested
to read your comments, but here’s my takeaway: Jay Gatsby was a great man. But great people
especially must be careful about what they worship. Thanks for watching. I’ll see you
next week. Crash Course is produced and directed by Stan
Muller. Too far! Our script supervisor is Meredith Danko. The associate producer is
Danica Johnson. The show is written by me. And our graphics team is Thought Bubble. Every
week, instead of cursing, I say the name of a writer I like if you’d like to suggest writers.
you can do so in comments where you can also ask questions about today;s video that will
be answered by our team of English Literature experts. Thanks for watching Crash Course
and as we say in my hometown, Don’t Forget To Be Awesome.

100 Replies to “Was Gatsby Great? The Great Gatsby Part 2: Crash Course English Literature #5

  1. Gatsby is a criminal who makes money off of bootlegging to try to impress a chick who’s already married. He’s so obsessed with Daisy, to the point where he plans down literally his entire day. It’s pitiful, since Gatsby is basically Daisy’s side hoe. He’s anything but great, especially because he didn’t even achieve his goal of actually being with the girl of his dreams.

  2. Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning——

    So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

  3. its almost as if the great depression was the physical tragedy that accompanied the fictional tragedy of gatsby's death.

  4. I believe Gatsby was great because he had the audacity to chase that which he knew he could not have. The objectification of Daisy was his American dream, not his cars and parties.

  5. When John said "legislating morality doesn't actually increase morality" I was like SAY IT LOUDER FOR THE PEOPLE IN THE BACK

  6. Restoring the past to create a beautiful future = Make America Great Again

    Gatsby is Donald Trump, confirmed

  7. In society, people often fake a smile to hide their sorrow. Nick says that Gatsby turned out “all right” because Gatsby seemed content at the end of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. However, Nick does not see through the mask on Gatsby’s face. In reality, Gatsby is fighting his inner demons and struggling to feel happiness again after everything he has been through. He ultimately dies feeling unloved while harboring many regrets. Thus, contrary to Nick’s statement, Gatsby does not turn out “all right”.
    Throughout the entire story, Gatsby dreams of finding Daisy and making her fall for him again. This dream was so close to coming true, but in the end, it fails to happen, causing Gatsby to feel hopeless and desperate. After Gatsby and Tom’s fight, Gatsby turns to Nick for reassurance. “‘I don’t think she ever loved him,’ Gatsby turned around and looked at [Nick] challengingly” (Fitzgerald 152). “Challengingly” suggests that Gatsby refuses to admit the fact that Daisy once had feelings for Tom, and it emphasizes Gatsby’s denial. He is looking for Nick to agree with him, which shows that Gatsby desperately wants someone to confirm his belief that Daisy only ever loved him, even though he knows that this is not true. “‘I suppose Daisy’ll call too.’ [Gatsby] looked at [Nick] anxiously, as if he hoped [Nick would] corroborate this” (Fitzgerald 152). Again, “anxiously” and “corroborate” show that Gatsby still wants to believe that Daisy only loved him despite knowing otherwise, and when that proves false, Gatsby tries to convince himself by making excuses and looking for confirmation. This highlights his desperation and his struggles with the past and present, and it shows that he would give anything to have things be different.
    Gatsby also dies with many relationships left unmended, such as that of his father’s. Family does not seem to be as important in American culture during that age, as seen from Tom and Myrtle’s affair and Daisy’s distant relationship with her daughter. However, Gatsby’s father is one of the only people who shows up to Gatsby’s funeral, and his reaction when he learns of Gatsby’s death is similar to the reaction of Gatsby after he loses Daisy–– full of despair. “…Mr. Gatz opened the door and came out, his mouth ajar, his face flushed slightly, his eyes leaking isolated and unpunctual tears. He had reached an age where death is no longer a ghastly surprise…” (Fitzgerald 168). Although Mr. Gatz is already familiar with death, he still cries, because it is his own son who has died. This shows that Mr. Gatz deeply loves his son, even though this goes against standards. Nevertheless, despite his everlasting love for Gatsby, their relationship remains isolated. When Nick asks him if he would like to take Gatsby’s body west, he responds, “‘Jimmy always liked it better down East. He rose up to his position in the East’” (Fitzgerald 168). This reveals that the bond between father and son is secluded, and that Gatsby likely has not contacted his father before his death. Gatsby did not mend the separation with his father, and now, after his death, it will never be resolved.
    In addition, Gatsby dies feeling unhappy and unloved. When Gatsby was still alive, he threw massive, elegant parties. People from all over West Egg–– and sometimes even East Egg–– gathered together in his parties. However, Gatsby threw these parties not so much as to please the guests, but rather for the guests to appreciate him. Nick writes that “Gatsby…look[ed] from one group to another with approving eyes” (Fitzgerald 50). There is no reason why Gatsby would look approvingly at his guests other than to see them enjoying themselves at the party, and in turn, praising Gatsby. This shows just how much Gatsby values his appearance and others’ opinions of him. Alas, Gatsby’s self-consciousness is what causes him to feel unhappy at the end. As stated by Nick, “[Daisy’s] frightened eyes told that whatever intentions, whatever courage she had had, were definitely gone…she looked at Tom, alarmed now, but he insisted with magnanimous scorn.” After Tom exposes Gatsby’s appalling past during their argument, Daisy regrets being with Gatsby. The use of “alarmed” signals Daisy’s hesitation toward Gatsby, where love had once been. This hurts Gatsby in a way that nothing has ever hurt him before, as his only dream in life is to win Daisy, and he wants to be well liked by everyone. Ultimately, his last moments are filled with regret, despair, and hopelessness because he dies thinking that all the people he had ever loved have left him.
    In the end, Gatsby dies as a broken man with shattered dreams. He does not turn out “all right,” but rather dies with many wrongs. I believe that a lesson that can be learned from Gatsby’s mistakes. Instead of chasing after one little thing in our life, we should fuel our interests bit by bit. If Gatsby was not so caught up with Daisy, if he had only one more interest, then that could have saved his life. Instead of devoting to Daisy, perhaps he would be at home, reading a book. After Daisy rejects him, perhaps he would have gone home by himself, because he knows that there are other things in life that will bring him happiness. Then, the ordeal with Wilson and the car would never have happened, and Gatsby would still be able to see another day. However, Gatsby’s involvement with Daisy is ultimately his downfall–– leading to broken dreams, relationships he can never mend, and a sad, premature death. Although it is too late for Gatsby, we still have time. We should take this moment and live in the present, cherishing what we have and making intelligent decisions. We will keep pushing forwards, because one day, sooner or later, we will all cease to exist. Even so, wouldn’t it be great if we leave after leading a satisfying life?

  8. "This machine kills fascists" and below is the Apple icon. An incongruity. Maybe cover up a corporate logo before striking one against the system.

  9. Jay Gatsby was a facade for James Gatz
    If you measure his greatness by what he achieved, then he was great economically (not lacking money). As for his happiness, it wasn't so great. I think Jay Gatsby serves as a lesson for us, that some things just aren't meant to be. He could have been greater had he learned to let go. But I guess it's easier said than done to let go of an obsession, that tantalizing green light. "So near and yet so far"

  10. One can be great in many different ways, who defines what great is? Since Nick made the title of his book 'The Great Gatsby', wasn't Gatsby just great for him?

  11. I think to the outsider, gatsby is great, the parties are large and glamorous and Owl eyes likes it certainly, but inside, he’s a broken man, to those close he’s rash and anxious and immature.

  12. super bummed your office in BR was turned into an apartment complex! Heres hoping your new office stays put! 🙂

  13. Well, the internet belongs to the prolific, so John Green wins. Just don't try running any of these breathless assertions past anyone who knows what the novel is about. Green gets just about everything wrong here, because he doesn't understand why it was written in first person, nor why the narrator is sadder but wiser while looking back at this cast of characters.

    Too many swings and misses to mention here, so just a word: if you're writing a paper and running out of time, look elsewhere.

  14. Thank you, without you, I wouldn't have caught half of the awesome details of this novel. Still, i find it hard to pin down what to strive for, especially when seemingly every imaginable goal has some sort of corruption and edge in it. I don't expect anyone here to be a master in philosophy, but could there be one to help me with this question?

  15. One of the problems in projecting a fantasy to the public in order for the public to accept it, then they must overcome their own moral values. If you are an angel, then the public demands angelic behavior and themselves become moral; therefore, there are moral boundaries that restrict the fantasy: This is why Jesus Christ said don't name him good, where only God is good, because nobody is going to believe him, if he did not become a curse and take all sin of Mankind at the Cross, because good people don't deserve this and people turn away from the story. Because the Great Gasby has flaws and might have done true evil, then the public does not feel guilt of stepping into this world and being part of it, in addition doing what they want in their fantasies, because bad people don't deserve our moral consideration and we do what we want in our dreams. This is a center theme in the music industry: By example, Cher with her music videos "Half Breed," "Dark Lady," and "Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves" are center to her hot, bodied, sex fantasy, because she has a bad reputation; therefore, we don't feel guilt of taking this fantasy of a half-Indian who is half-dressed into our homes and purchase her albums. This has been the center of Taylor Swift's, bad-reputation, music videos, because she is the fantasy, and she is the actress in your bad dreams, and this is marketing. All because, good girls don't get fantasies, and they get put away from our minds for we become moral creatures when our fantasies are moral.

    This creates a maxim rule, if your entertainment does not have drama, then it won't sell, because nobody wants to hear stories of fun puppies except as a meme image for your screen saver.

  16. My perspective is: Gatsby had great intention, yet lost his self-worth by his obsession with Daisy, whom I personally STILL despise….
    Be that as it may, he defines a clear example of how balancing self and others in life can lead to foreseeable, sometimes blindsided, tragedy. Him and Oedipus should meet in a bar somewhere in the cosmos and have some beers…

  17. Thank you for this video. Taught me so much. I think Gatsby is a great reflection of our inability to let go of that childhood dream we cling on to for the rest of our lives instead of growing and realising that, that dream is not worth it because it won’t make us fully happy (cause we made it when we were kids and didn’t fully know ourselves) or it’s probably a surface level dream about raising ourselves and not really helping others which we may find more fulfilling

  18. I think Gatsby was great because he was by far the most "human" person of anyone in the book. Compared to the idle people in his entourage Gatsby had feelings and emotions regarding other people, in this case, daisy. Gatsby seems like the only person who seems relatable who has feelings and expresses them. He has goals, if that means to spend his entire life trying to accomplish the seemingly impossible is a distinctly great thing. If we measure greatness by how human we are. Gatsby certainly was a great person

  19. I wish we watched this when we read The Great Gatsby in High School. Thanks for changing my view on a novel that I thought was romantically heartless (and not to mention messed up), John Green.

  20. I think "Great" here denotes "Being poor", given by Nick to Gatsby out of his feeling of sorrow for him. Gatsby did not achieve his dream, he sacrificed himself and at the end no one even showed up at his funeral. The greatest person in the story was probably Nick himself, he understood Gatsby, helped him as a "favor" and stood beside him and at the end gave him the title he did not even deserve.

  21. @ 3:25
    This nights almost over;
    Honest, lets make, this night last forever.
    Forever, and ever, lets make this last forever.

  22. Gatsbys first date with Daisy reminds me of a classic song….

    Forever, and ever, lets make this last forever.
    Honest, lets make..this night last forever.

  23. I don't know if he was great, but he was generous with his friends and his dad and he was chivalrous with Daisy in that he was willing to take the blame for the accident. He was a gentleman.

    The novel was beautifully written. I read it in one sitting. Also I found Gatsby and Nick to be highly sympathetic. I admired them both and was saddened by Gatsby's demise.

  24. The antidote to this novel's admiration for the Mid West is Sinclair Lewis's Main Street. Lewis portrays the folks in that Minnesota town as Hicks and rubes. I believe Lewis wrote that novel in the 1920's.

  25. The correctives to the inequities and excesses of the Roaring Twenties were the New Deal and the post WWII boom that lasted until the 1970's; that post war prosperity created the middle class; it was a tide that lifted all boats.

  26. I just love that John chokes up when reading the quote about the Dutch sailors and that man must have held his breath back then …"face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder". That sentence and that sentiment is so beautiful and nostalgic as to beat almost anything. I also ALWAYS choke up at the word "history", just like our friend here 🙂 (it's at 2:02ish)

  27. I read this book and when I read it was really hard for me to understand the story ,the only thing I think I got from it is that we try to achieve things or an idea of a better future, though we don't realize what it could actually lead to. Gatsby's efforts are to be appreciated but his idea that happiness can only come from one person is wrong.
    Also the video gave me some new perspectives about it, so thank you sm.

  28. Jay Gatsby was great. Again, I do not think that all the characters are too unlikable with further analysis. I think not even Daisy is too bad when understood and looked at from a different angle. She's more flawed and conflicted than unlikable to me. I thought the same way about Gatsby.

  29. No. I don't think Gatsby is great, he just appeals to what we are biased to assume is great. The things that were great about Gatsby was his illegal money, his manicured poise, and his lame dream. I think we are drawn to want Gatsby to be great because of the empathy we have built up for him. However, we have to remember that Gatsby was extremely rich and managed to help very few people and in the end he accomplishes nothing. Does that make him great? Nonetheless, who knows if I or you could have done anything better in Gatsby's place;) … Hey, maybe by "great" Fitzgerald just meant that the tail of Gatsby was great. Or it was a marketing strategy!!!! because people are stupid and think something is great just because it has "GREAT" printed in fine lettering on it.
    P.S. I have a GREAT YouTube channel. John Green, if you comment on it I will go crazy and show all of my friends.

  30. You guys should do an episode on “the outsiders” by S.E. Hunton or her other book “that was then this is now”. They are both fascinating book “ the outsiders” exploring human relation through tragedy and “that was then this is now” the idea that good people can do bad things

  31. i want to read the great gatsby because it seems a book of reality everyone want to think of being rich as a fantasy but real life suggests that, that same fantasy is what destroys our humanity wow i should write a book

  32. “Great People especially must be careful about what they worship”- John Green.

    That was probably the best quote I ever heard in my life.

  33. Can anyone elaborate with me on Daisy symbolizing happiness? I feel she does, because Gatsby has ever material object he could ever wish for but… he still feels the need to have Daisy (happiness). Daisy comes and goes throughout the novel and he continues to make strides toward her love by all costs. My point is: he can never have daisy constantly; sort of how no one can constantly be happy. Then when he does not have daisy, he is constantly reminiscing to times where he did. With this novel being about the American Dream, I just feel Daisy represents “The Pursuit of Happiness” we all relate to.
    This is hard to articulate through text, but any help is appreciated.

  34. I read this novel one morning right after I woke up, literally started and finished it all in my bed. Back then I was going after classics like a mad man, finishing one after another. All of it I found delight until this one. I finished the whole novel and I didn’t understand anything at all. “What? What was the point of the story?” Perhaps it was my lack of literary prowess but I shove it all off with the thought that maybe this is one of the books that is a hard read and may need time and intelligence to understand. I need to grow to understand and hold an opinion of this book. Too-avant-for-my-garde.

    Now that John Green made an analysis about it, I might as well dig it in again. It’s been years anyway.

  35. when he started talking about what the founding fathers would think, i couldnt help but think of Alexander Hamilton saying all that stuff lmao…

  36. I think that nick is a flawed narrator and thus his heightened language gives this false sense of greatness to Gatsby. And potentially that Nick super imposes his own views on Daisy rather than Gatsby being deeply in love with her as the way they describe her are much different

  37. Gatsby was a great man because he built himself from nothing and made a name for himself. He was extremely driven and dedicated to his dream. It's ironic though, that many great people in history fall into the trap of chasing an unrealistic goal, or not being able to find a meaningful goal, instead going crazy over a worthless idea that they have built up in their heads as a comfort blanket, even if they know deep down it isn't true.

  38. Good video. The narrator seems to miss an important point. True many of the characters were dull, selfish, insensitive individuals. The story has been adapted to the screen several times. I have not seen any of them, because they received poor reviews. But, this is my point, when I began to read “The Great Gatsby” I was thrilled. My point is that Fitzgerald was an outstanding writer. I just kept wanting to read just one more chapter. Writing is much more than the movies. Excellence in writing stands alone by itself.

  39. I don't think Gatsby was a great man. I found him rather sad and pathetic. He obviously possessed the will and energy to create a fortune, but his energy was all focused upon acquiring Daisy. And I suspect his love for Daisy was all about his love for the wealth and lifestyle that she had represented to him. I found that sad. Do I consider myself above that? I fear and suspect that I'm not. I can only hope that someone would call me out if I ever engage in this behavior.

  40. What would the founding fathers think?
    Probably something racist… and sexist… generally offensive
    Don't take the advice of 200-year olds

  41. Wow, I need a moment to chew on this video.

    As I mentioned previously, I used to date a girl that I thought was the love of my life. While neither of us had Gatsby level affluence, I'd say my family was in the top 10%, hers in the top 1%. Both of us still lived at home, and twice a year my parents would leave us the house for a week and it was wonderful to pretend to be living together. She left me around 5 years ago, and ever since I've thrown raucous parties (where I, like Gatsby, don't actually smoke or drink etc.), because I felt it was the 'thing to do' as a single guy.

    However, I also know for years I pined after her, and it took a long time to realize that what I pined for was the affluence I saw in her family, that she and I were actually not very good fits for each other. While many people like to insert themselves into stories, this one hit particularly close to home (I've never read it, and this is my first exposure to it. Never went to high school because I tried to kill myself over…wait for it….that same girl).

  42. Looking back on all these books I was forced to read in high school I now realize that they're actually really interesting. And only 200 pages!? I could read that in an afternoon.

  43. I’m a little sad this didn’t have time to get into my favorite aspect of the novel: “passing” as it relates to sexuality and ethnicity.

    Okay, hear me out: for those who don’t know, at the tail end of chapter 3, our intrepid narrator Nick is in an elevator with a man, and they’re talking about getting lunch sometime. There’s some very minor innuendo, and then a smash cut… to Nick lying in the other man’s bed. They’re both in their underwear, and the other man is showing Nick his photography portfolio. “Wait what?!” you say? “I don’t remember that!” To be perfectly honest, most people overlooked it for years until some brave soul or other finally shouted out “IS NO ONE GONNA MENTION THE FACT THAT NICK HAD SEX WITH A GUY?” People started looking into it more, and noticed that Jordan Baker (Nick’s casual-kinda-girlfriend) bears a lot of similarities to 20s icon Josephine Baker, and is very queer coded. Being described as boyish, flat chested, outspoken, aggressive, athletic, and coltish might not scream “lesbian” nowadays, but back then it was pretty heavy queercoding. So we have two people in a relationship, one who is confirmed to sleep with men, and the other who is queercoded, neither of whom seem to be particularly interested in the other, or hurt by the other’s disinterest. They’re passing as straight to allow them to maintain their high society status.

    Similarly, there is the question of ethnicity and religion, and specifically Jewish identity. Of course we have Meyer Wolfsheim, a somewhat stereotypical if not unrealistic mob boss and bootlegger, and business associate of Jay Gatsby’s. But we also have Gatsby himself, whose REAL name is James Gatz. Whether that’s a German-Slavic name, a Jewish name, or both has been hotly debated, as has the likelihood of an upperclassman gentile like Gatsby associating with the Jewish Wolfsheim without some shared background (discrimination and outright segregation applied much more to Jews in the early 1900s than they did later on). But regardless of the truth, the fact remains that Gatsby changed his name likely to avoid such insinuations from others. Jay’s, Daisy’s AND Jordan’s identity as WASPs is repeatedly called into question throughout the novel, especially in the scenes with Tom Buchanan and his racist pseudoscientific rants. Whether or not it’s true isn’t nearly as important as the fact that they have to constantly put on the performance of whiteness, trying to appear as WASPy as possible so they can keep their place in high society.

    These issues of passing serve to underscore the themes of The Great Gatsby: the inaccessibility of the American Dream, the continuing presence of an elite aristocracy, and the reeeally slow integration of other (see: not straight, white, and Protestant) identities into the American mainstream, despite those identities still being socially unacceptable.

    …thank you for coming to my TED Talk. In other news, WHY DO I WRITE ESSAYS IN YOUTUBE COMMENTS???

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